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Archaeological Site of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius

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Visiting cost
The ticket costs 3 euros. Up to 24 years old free of charge.
Description

Built at a high altitude, in the bare and rocky landscape of Basson Figaleia in today's Ilia, the temple of Apollo Epicurius occupies a special place in the history of the ancient Greek architecture. It is one of the best surviving examples of the classical period, with conservative and at the same time innovative features. It is the first Greek monument to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1986.

It is dated to 420 – 400 BC. and it was a dedication of the inhabitants of the Arcadian city of Figaleia, whose remains are located at a distance of approximately 13 kilometres southwest of Bassa. However, it is not the first temple they built in this holy place. Believing that he strengthened them in the conflict they had with the Lacedaemonians, the Figaleians founded a temple in honour of Apollo in the Archaic years and worshiped him as an "epicourian", that is, a helper in times of war. A few centuries later they worship him with the same epithet as a healer god because he saved them from a deadly pestilence.

The temple of the classical times, which, though its several losses, still stands today and it is the work of Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. Light-colored local limestone was used for its construction, while some parts of the ceiling, the capitals of the nave and the sculptural decoration were marble. The classical temple has been founded on the natural rock, on a specially shaped plateau. Instead of the familiar orientation of ancient temples from east to west, the temple is built along the north-south axis, perhaps for cultic reasons connected to the Arcadian religious tradition, a phenomenon also known from other temples in the region. 

The monument combines elements of the three architectural rhythms of antiquity. The Doric style predominates, and we can distinguish a porch, a nave, a sanctuary and a back builiding.  It has six columns on the narrow sides and fifteen on the long sides. Externally, the temple had a Doric frieze with unadorned metopes and triglyphs, while a relief decoration existed only on the inner metopes of the narrow sides. The prominent decorative element of the temple was the marble Ionic frieze, which was created by the famous sculptor Paionios and it surrounded the nave of the church, above the Ionic semi-columns. The frieze had a total length of 31 meters, and it is consisted of 23 marble slabs. Twelve of them depict an Amazon battle and the remaining eleven, a Centaur battle.

During the first systematic excavation of the temple, in 1812, by a group of foreign scientists, the slabs were discovered under fallen architectural members. During the same research, the oldest Corinthian capital in the history of Greek architecture was also found, which, however, was ultimately not saved. After an auction organized by the excavators themselves, the frieze and other sculptures of the temple ended up in the British Museum (1815), where they are currently exhibited. 

The extremely difficult restoration and compensation project of the monument is underway, while since 1987 the temple has been protected from adverse weather conditions with a special canopy that will be removed after the completion of the necessary works.

Access

Apollo Epicurius can be reached by bus or private car. 

Parking available
Location
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Information
  • Postal Code 27061, Figaleia (Prefecture of Elis)
  • 26260 22275 - 2624023753 (Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis)
  • Construction period 420-400 BC
  • Police Department of Elis - P.D. of Zacharo, Ephorate of Antiquities of Elis
Opening hours

Winter hours:

  • From 01.11.2021 to 13.12.2021: 08:00 - 17:00
  • From 14.12.2021 and onwards: 08:30 - 15:30

For safety reasons, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius will remain closed to the public when extreme weather conditions are forecast in the area (wind force of more than 6 Beaufort and gusts of wind reaching 70km/hour.) Please contact the site’s ticket office at 2626022275 to confirm if it is open.
 

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